Third North American Chevra Kadisha Conference – Workshops

Tracks: H=Historical; P=Practical; C=Communal; E=Emotional & Spiritual

Times slots: 1-5  

H-1: Individual vs Community: Death as a Jewish Communal Challenge- Dr. Sylvie Goldberg

See Dr. Goldberg's bio under plenary sessions.

H-2: Rituals, books and people: the emergence and development of the Chevra Kadisha in 17th century Europe Dr. Avriel Bar-Levav

See Dr Bar-Levav's bio under plenary sessions. 

H-3: Applbaum Archives - 40 years of Chevra Kadisha organizing in the Orthodox community- David Zinner

Rabbi Sidney Applbaum has been instrumental in forcing the Orthodox world and Jewish Funeral Directors to take seriously Jewish traditions around death and dying. More than any other single individual in the last 40 years, Rabbi Applbaum elevated the discussion of traditional Jewish Funeral Practice onto the North American agenda. He remained consistent in his advocacy of Tahara, Tachrichim and Kevurah b'Karka and in his opposition to embalming and viewing. He brought vision and determination, knowledge and creativity, patience and insight to this holy work.

See David Zinner's bio under plenary sessions. 

H-4: Why do we say and do this? - Taharah prayers and more - Rabbi Mosha Epstein

Rosho Ketem Paz - "And his head is fine gold" from Song of Songs - Blessing prayer

Hinei Mitaso Shel Sh'lomo - "Behold, it is the couch of Solomon" - Casketing prayer 

Rabbi Mosha Epstein is the author of Tahara Manual of Practices. Rabbi Epstein has been the Rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim in Bridgeport, CT for the last 35 years.

H-5: . . . among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem: Parallelism in personal and communal mourning rituals and traditions. - David Wachtel

David Wachtel is the Senior Research Associate for Special Collections at The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary, He was one of the lead authors of “From This World to the Next – Jewish Approaches to Illness, Death and the Afterlife. This outstanding work covers 400 years of Jewish communal history and practice and is beautifully recorded, from the membership plaque of the Chevra Kadisha in 1816 Rome, to an 1867 silver comb and pick; from a page of the 1662 Sefer Minhagim which deals with burial customs, to the 1827 Order of the Burial Service from New York. David holds advanced degrees in Medieval History and Jewish Studies from Columbia University and is a teacher and lecturer in the United States, Israel and Europe on a variety of topics in Jewish history and Jewish art.

P-1: Lessons Learned - Review of the beginning Tahara demonstration

P-2: Sew in the Mourning - History and manufacture of Tachrichim - Elizabeth Menkin

Designing patterns, improving the design, recruiting, setup of a mobile workgroup, and encouraging involvement of key community groups.

Dr. Elizabeth Menkin started Threads of Tradition, a San Jose, California group that sews tachrichim. Why bother organizing a group to sew burial garments — and convincing people to overcome their squeamishness about death — when you can just buy them from New York? It’s about affirming people’s humanity by getting them to take care of each other. It is a way of fulfilling the mitzvah of chesed shel emet — “true kindness which cannot be repaid.” It confirms the value of participation by lay members of the community rather than delegating the duties to trained professionals.  It provides a discrete project that is rich in Jewish content and spiritually meaningful, taking values that are often preached-about and letting people be able to really make some direct impact in a very loving way.

P-3: Death Burial and Mourning Issues for Intermarried Families and the Chevra Kadisha - Carol Cunradi and Rabbi Stuart Kelman

Given the reality of intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews over the last few decades, an increasing number of households in the Jewish community will be confronted with issues surrounding death, burial and mourning and counseling involving non-Jewish relatives and loved ones.  These issues center broadly around two distinct, but interrelated scenarios:  (1) death, burial & mourning issues for intermarried households (e.g., a non-Jew married to a Jew); and (2) death, burial & mourning issues for Jews by choice (e.g., a Jew with non-Jewish parents).  For the former, issues may include whether or not a non-Jewish spouse can be buried in a Jewish cemetery, whether taharah can be performed, and whether or not a Jewish spouse can say kaddish or sit shiva for their non-Jewish spouse (or vice-versa).  For the latter, issues may include how to honor the faith traditions around death & burial of one’s non-Jewish parent while maintaining the integrity of one’s Jewish faith.  What is the role of the Chevra Kadisha in assisting intermarried households to confront these issues, and in carrying out Jewish death, burial and mourning customs?  Under what circumstances can or should traditional Jewish death, burial and mourning customs be altered to accommodate intermarried households? What are some of the counseling issues that may come up – such as mourning practices for grandchildren, attending a funeral of someone who practiced another religion, yahrtzeit for someone who was not Jewish, etc.

Rabbi Stuart Kelman is the rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley and is the author of Chesed: Acts of Kindness, a series of 3 booklets published by the EKS. Included are Chesed Shel Emet – The Truest Act of Kindness - Guidelines for Taharah - The Jewish Ritual for Preparing the Body for Burial – the first commercially published Taharah Manual, Give Me Your Hand - Traditional and Practical Guidance on Visiting the Sick. A Congregation Manual for Bikkur Cholim (visiting the sick).and K'vod Hamet - A Guide For the Bereaved

Since 1969, Rabbi Kelman has been actively engaged in the field of Jewish education serving as a principal, regional youth director, camp director, professor of education, executive director of a central bureau of Jewish education. He was one of the founders of CAJE, the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education. All these positions have required working with a wide range of people, denominations, institutions and educational systems within the Jewish community. More at

Dr. Carol Cunradi is the President of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley. She is a frequent teacher about Jewish death and mourning customs. She is a founding member of the Netivot Shalom chevra kadisha, its former coordinator, and she has participated in tahara since 1991.

P-4: For Rabbis - Developing and maintaining rabbinic support for the Chevra Kadisha - Rabbi Stephen Roberts, Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Rabbi Adam Mintz, Rabbi, Rabbi Larry Seibert 

Discussion of the various tachlis issues that rabbis face when starting a Chevra Kadisha, supporting an existing one which they inherit, revitalizing one, and helping support one in their community. This is a closed workshop so that both presenters and also those who attend can honestly address issues such as: board politics around Chevra Kadisha, congregational and community politics and how it impacts the running of a Chevra Kadisha, the real steps in visioning and getting a board to sign off in creating a Chevra Kadisha, steps to help keep a Chevra Kadisha going and helping bring new members into the process.

Rabbi Stephen Roberts is the associate executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis. He is the former coordinator of Jewish Chaplainry Chaplaincy at New York-Presbyterian Hospital - New York Weill Cornell Medical Campus and Staff Chaplain with the HealthCare Chaplaincy. He is a Board Certified Chaplain with the National Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC). Rabbi Roberts is the Chairman of Disaster Spiritual Care Services of American Red Cross in Greater New York, and President of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains.

Rabbi Adam Mintz is the President of the New York Board of Rabbis and a member of the Board of Plaza Jewish Community Chapel. Rabbi Mintz previously served as Rabbi at Lincoln Square Synagogue 1996-, Associate Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and taught Talmud at the Ramaz Upper School – all in Manhattan. 

Rabbi Larry Sebert is the Rabbi of Town and Village synagogue in Lower Manhattan and a member of the New York Board of Rabbis.. 

Rabbi Stuart Kelman's bio is listed above - See P-3

P-5: Chevra Kadisha’s Role in Donation for Transplant - Lisa Dinhofer

“To Save One Life is as if YOU Saved the World". Contrary to common opinion, Judaism does endorse anatomical donation for transplant. With almost 90,000 people awaiting life saving transplants and one recipient dying off the list every 90 minutes, Chevra Kadisha volunteers can have a major impact on this national healthcare crisis and even possibly save or improve the life of someone they know within their own community. 

  1. The facts and myths surrounding organ and tissue donation
  2. From Donation to Transplant…what’s the process
  3. Why Do They Donate: Working with and understanding donor families
  4. What to expect when doing a Tahara for a donor
  5. How to educate Organ and Tissue recovery agencies on supporting the needs of Jewish families at the time of death
  6. P’Kuach Ha Nefesh: The Chevra Kadisha’s unique role in facilitating transplant

Lisa Dinhofer, MA, CT, CTBS, is a Certified Thanatologist and Transplant Consultant with a concentration in the emotional, ethical and legal aspects of consent for organ and tissue donation. She is an experienced educator to: organ and tissue recovery agencies on consent, aftercare and medical examiner issues; healthcare and mental healthcare professionals, funeral directors and forensic professionals on working with families experiencing sudden death, death notifications techniques and end-of-life issues. She has provided consultation to organ and tissue recovery agencies as well as hospital staff on the needs of Jewish families at the time of death and related issues during the donation process. She was published in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology and is a frequent lecturer both nationally and internationally on issues pertaining to consent for donation and bereavement issues unique to donor families; trauma, grief and loss and Compassion Fatigue. She is a scheduled presenter for the 7th International Conference on Grief and Bereavement in London; The World Gathering on Bereavement in Vancouver; and is on faculty for the Masters Conference for Advanced Death Investigation at the St. Louis U. School of Medicine. She currently serves as an instructor for the American Association of Tissue Banking and is an adjunct instructor in the Graduate Thanatology program at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. She is the owner of KoDen, LLC, a transplant and healthcare consulting firm and provides grief and loss counseling in private practice. Ms. Dinhofer can be reached at

C-1: Developing good working relationships between the funeral home and Chevra Kadisha - Andy Fier, Wendy Kraft, Rena Boroditsky

Andrew Fier is the Executive Director of Plaza Jewish Community Chapel in Manhattan. He has more than 40 years of experience as a funeral director and is a member of the Rosenthal and Grossberg families who have been active in the funeral business for more than 100 years. Andy is the only person to have served twice as president of the Jewish Funeral Directors of America. He was the founder of Plaza Memorial Chapel, the facility which Plaza Jewish Community Chapel acquired from SCI in February 2001. Over his career, Andy has served as Chairman, Yeshiva University Interdisciplinary Conference on Bereavement and Grief.

Wendy Kraft is a member of the Temple Beth Sholom Chevra Kadisha and is a funeral director in Las Vegas, Nevada. She was the coordinator of the 2004 Chevra Kadisha Conference.

Rena Boroditsky is the director of the Winnipeg's Chesed Shel Emes Funeral Home. Established in 1930 as a non-profit organization, the Chesed provides mortuary and Tahara services according to Orthodox tradition. Rena has developed and taught adult education classes on the fundamentals of death and burial from a Jewish perspective and tahara training, and has presented at the Annual Palliative Care Conference of Manitoba as well as at the University of Manitoba School of Nursing. Currently, she is compiling a directory of Canadian Chevrei Kadisha, and is developing a model to introduce volunteer Shmira to the Winnipeg community..

C-2: In the Beginning - Educating the Community about Jewish Preparation for Burial. How do we overcome myths and misconceptions? How do we develop interest in the Chevra Kadisha in Jewish schools, among adults and in the media? -  Rochel Berman

Rochel Berman was a member of the Congregation Rosh Pinah Chevra Kadisha in Westchester, N.Y. for seventeen years. She is currently a member of the Boca Raton Synagogue Chevra Kadisha and serves as a consultant to the Congregation B’nai Torah Chevra Kadisha in Boca Raton, Florida. In 2004, she participated in a Public Broadcasting System segment on Chevra Kadisha that aired on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. Rochel holds a master’s degree in group work and community organization from Hunter College School of Social Work and has written and lectured extensively.

Her new book, Dignity Beyond Death: The Jewish Preparation for Burial, examines the rituals of preparing the dead for burial from the point of view of those volunteers who undertake it, including chapters on the Holocaust and terrorism. Through personal interviews, Rochel brings together the voices of ordinary people engaged in an extraordinary task.

C-3: "Vigil-Keepers for the Morning": The Spiritual and Communal Significance of Sh'mirah – Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips

Weaving together classical teachings, first-person testimonies, experiential exercises and practical considerations, this workshop will provide a 21st-century orientation to the traditional vigil over the dead prior to burial.  We will approach sh'mirah as a gateway to deeper commitment, for individuals and communities seeking to live more fully by honoring the dead.

Rabbi Regina L. Sandler-Phillips, CSW, MPH is the founder of the Park Slope Jewish Center Hevra Kadisha in Brooklyn, New York, and has kept the vigil over the dead in hospitals, private homes and funeral parlors throughout the greater New York area.   She holds master's degrees in social work and public health, and has served as a chaplain and educator in a range of acute and long term care, hospice and community settings in both Israel and the U.S., including significant roles in the NYC disaster relief efforts following September 11, 2001.  Regina currently teaches professional skills as adjunct faculty at the Academy for Jewish Religion, the pluralistic rabbinical and cantorial seminary in NYC, and is completing the manuscript for her book Sacred Undertaking: Jewish Acts of Kindness with the Living and the Dead.

C-4: Organizing a Chevra Kadisha – creating a caring culture, identifying models, making it work – Panel of Experts

Ideas, techniques, strategies and resources to help organize a new Chevra Kadisha, revive one that is stagnant, or further develop one that wants to branch into new areas.

Rick Light is a member of the Los Alamos Jewish Center, a small unaffiliated congregation that has an active Chevra Kadisha.

Marion Schwartz is a member of Temple Emanu-el in Westfield, NJ, a very large Reform Temple. She is on a personal quest to learn Tahara and start a Chevra Kadisha in her community.

Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips has recently organized a Chevra Kadisha at her Conservative shul in Brooklyn.  See Rabbi Sandler-Phillips' bio above

C-5: The Gamliel Initiative: Negotiating funeral and burial contracts - Bob Hausman

Robert M. Hausman is Vice-President of Kavod v'Nichum and has been the President of the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington (JFPCGW) for over 25 years. JFPCGW is an umbrella group of over 45 Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist congregations and havurot in the D.C. area. JFPCGW contracts for them with local funeral homes, and trains and provides materials for bereavement committees and chevrei kadisha.

JFPCGW advances a model by which families use a standard contract for a complete funeral, including facilities for whatever religious expression they choose, without dealing directly with the funeral director. They are thus assured a well-organized funeral, with a synagogue, funeral home, or graveside service, that meets the principles of respect for the met and equality and simplicity in death. Congregations provide advice, liaison with the funeral home, shmira, tahara, shiva, and meal of condolence, in accordance with their own rules and traditions.

Bob was one of the founders of the Tifereth Israel Congregation Bereavement committee and Chevra Kadisha, where the JFPCGW began in Washington DC, in 1976.

E-1: Comforting the soul - creating a safe place for a post-Tahara discussion. Rabbi Mel Glazer

Rabbi Mel Glazer is a Conservative Rabbi at Beth David Congregation in Miami, FL. He has served congregations in the US, Canada and South Africa. He is the creator of Tele-kadisha, a periodic conference call for those Chevra Kadisha members to share feelings and experiences after Tahara. His workshops at the Chevra Kadisha conferences allow participants to share experiences and feelings about their Tahara work.

In his spare time, he is a Grief Counselor who helps adults and kids "say goodbye" to people and relationships which have caused pain. His Ph.D. dissertation was on Jewish burial societies and he has begun Hevre Kadisha in Florida and Texas.

During his 31 years as a Grief Specialist and Rabbi he has helped hundreds of wonderful women, men and kids recover from their grief by completing their relationships with those who have died. 

Rabbi Glazer has begun an on-line magazine called Grief Matters. He says, "I have seen sadness transformed into joy and celebration. It feels like a rebirth has taken place! I have also seen what happens when we are unable to complete our relationships--they remain with us, limiting our futures and blocking our hopes, dreams and aspirations. It is almost as if the dead remain alive, while we who are living become deadened to life.:  

E-2: Chevra Kadisha first responders - comforting and helping the newly bereaved family make initial decisions about the funeral, tahara, shmira - Jeff Davidson

Jeff Davidson has been a member of the Chevra Kadisha at Tifereth Israel Congregation in Washington for about fifteen years.  He has participated in a number of national meetings in this area.  In his day job, Jeff works at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the Labor Department.  He also teaches research at a number of social work schools in the Washington area.  Jeff is interested in the bereavement process and empathy burn out for the care giver.

E-3: Physical & spiritual care near life's end - balancing the rabbinic and Chevra Kadisha roles – Rabbi Felicia Sol, Rabbi Jay Yaacov Schwartz, Helen Radin. Moderated by Susan Rosenthal.

The Chevra Kadisha and the rabbi should coordinate their efforts as they work with the dying person and their family. Just as there are different entry points/openings for spiritual growth at the end of life, there are also entry points to discuss those difficult issues of funeral, burial, washing, dressing, mourning and payment. There are opportunities to support and coach family and friends (inner circle), mobilize other resources including volunteers and health care professionals from the synagogue community, clergy, and friends. There are areas of challenge and conflict as we move through this profound time of transition and transformation for the dying person and those around them. We will explore some ways in which rabbis and lay people have provided this care. Discussion will follow.

Moderator: Susan J. Rosenthal, LCSW, National Center for Jewish Healing/JBFCS


Rabbi Felicia Sol is one of the three rabbis at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan on the Upper West SIde.  

Rabbi Jay Yaacov Schwartz - M.A. M.S.W., Hospital Rabbi and Consultant to the Dept of Medical Affairs for South Nassau Communities Hospital LI NY; Rabbinical liaison to Metropolitan Jewish Health Systems, Brooklyn, New York; 

Helen Radin is a member of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun's Chevra Kadisha. 

E-4: Writing Through Grief: Obituaries, Eulogies and Memoirs - Ari Goldman & Samuel Freedman

Ari L. Goldman is the Dean of Students of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York, the director of Columbia's Scripps Howard Program in Religion and Journalism, and worked at The New York Times for 20 years , most of it as a religion writer. He is the author of Living a Year of Kaddish, The Search for God at Harvard and Being Jewish. 

Samuel Freedman teaches journalism at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and is the author of “Who She Was: My Search For My Mother’s Life. Samuel Freedman teaches journalism at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. 

E-5: The One Who Heals the Broken Hearted... - The Psychological Wisdom of Bereavement Halacha and Tradition -– Rabbi Joseph Ozarowski

Rabbi Joseph Ozarowski is the Executive Director of the (Orthodox) Chicago Rabbinical Council and administrator of its Bet Din and Chevra Kadisha. His book, To Walk in God's Ways - Jewish Pastoral Perspectives on Illness and Bereavement, is considered a standard in the field of Judaism and pastoral care. He helped start the Lancaster Chevra Kadisha and is a board member of Kavod v’Nichum.

Rabbi Ozarowski is active in the field of pastoral care and Judaism. He is the past chair of the Pastoral Care Committee at Franklin Hospital Medical Center, Valley Stream, NY, has been a governing board member of the Metropolitan Coordinating Council on Bikur Holim, and also a member of the New York UJA/Federation task forces on Pastoral Care and Hospice. Most recently he served as Staff Jewish Chaplain at NYU Medical Center.

For the past 22 years, Rabbi Ozarowski has been a pulpit rabbi, educator, author and chaplain. For 12 he has served as the spiritual leader of the Elmont Jewish Center, in Elmont, NY. Rabbi Ozarowski is also the co-author of Common Ground written with a Conservative and Reform rabbi. During his earlier rabbinic positions, he founded the Lancaster (PA) Jewish Day School and co-founded the East Bay (Berkeley-Oakland, CA) Vaad Hakashrut.

This post conference workshop is on Wednesday, June 8, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and requires a separate tuition payment of $25 to Drisha.

Aspects of Death and Mourning in the Biblical Narrative on Rachel - Rabbi David Silber

Rachel is probably the most beloved of our Matriarchs. Her tragic death and burial is recorded in Genesis 35. We will explore the significance of her death and burial through the prism of selected biblical texts. This class will include guided havruta study.

Rabbi David Silber is the Founder and Dean of Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, a forum for empowering women to be Jewish scholars and educators, Drisha Institute was founded in 1979 by Rabbi Silber as the world's first center for women's advanced study of classical Jewish texts. Drisha offers a wide variety of educational initiatives including full-time programs with a leadership development track, summer institutes, a summer high school program, a Bat Mitzvah program, continuing education programs and community lectures.  Thousands of people — from the New York area as well as from around the world — participate in Drisha programs annually.